Contact a professional with any concerns
Paint adds color to our lives, but sometimes it can add concerns to our homes. Although lead house paint was banned from U.S. use in 1978, it still lives on in many older residences, and tenants, landlords, and homeowners need to remain vigilant regarding this ongoing household health issue.
Here’s a little bit about lead and its close-to-home paint hazards:
- Lead exposure killed more than 1 million people worldwide in 2017 alone.
- Approximately 24 million U.S. housing units have significant lead-based paint hazards like deterioration and related dust.
- Four million of these U.S. housing units are home to young children.
- As many as 500,000 U.S. children have blood-lead levels higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter, but there is no safe level of lead exposure: Even small amounts of lead can cause an array of serious health problems in all ages, but especially in children, whose bodies absorb the toxin more quickly.
If lead is so dangerous, why was it ever used in household paint? This heavy metal had been added to paint for centuries to make it more dense and opaque, allowing small amounts of paint to cover large surfaces and making paint more cost-effective. But what also surfaced throughout the centuries were references to lead’s high toxicity: As far back as 1786, U.S. statesman Benjamin Franklin warned a friend about his grave lead-paint-poisoning concerns, and the League of Nations—the United Nations’ predecessor—called for an end to lead in paint in 1922. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1971 that U.S. legislation was passed recognizing and eventually ending the use of lead in new paint.
But the old paint remained—and often still remains—in our homes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
- If your house was built between 1960 and 1977, it has a 24% chance of containing lead paint.
- If your house was built between 1940 and 1959, it has a 69% chance of containing lead paint.
- If your house was built before 1940, it has an 87% chance of containing lead paint.
Chances are that, regardless of the age of your home, old leaded paint has been covered by a fresh lead-free coat by now; however, it can still be there under the surface, with toxic elements ready to be released by renovation, repair, and related construction activities.
If you have concerns about lead paint in your home, or if you have plans for renovation or construction and are worried
about potential lead-paint problems, contact a professional for assistance. Licensees of Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board (CSLB)—including those with specialized painting licenses—are helpful resources, and licensed contractors also can have additional training and certification in safe lead testing, abatement, and construction practices under the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. To check a contractor’s license, visit search.dca.ca.gov, and see a list of CDPH-certified lead-abatement professionals.
For additional free materials and information on household lead paint (available in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somali, and Arabic), visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.